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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 September, 2004, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
Nato agrees to expand Iraq role
Members of Iraq's new National Guard
Nato members had differed over training Iraq's soldiers
The Nato alliance has agreed to take on a larger role in the training of Iraqi security forces, a spokesman said.

The organisation will now work towards creating a large military training academy to expand the work done by some 40 Nato instructors already in Iraq.

After a week-long delay, accord was reached through a revised plan that overcame French and Belgian objections.

The two countries had earlier voiced concern over how the academy would be led, funded and protected.

Under the plan, some 300 Nato instructors will now be sent to Iraq to train local security forces.

BBC regional analyst William Horsley says the move is a big step forward for the US and its allies in Iraq, who have long wanted to draw more on the huge resources and experience of Nato in the task of bringing security and stability to Iraq.

French doubts

France, Germany, Belgium and Spain will not contribute personnel for the project and have sought assurances that other members of the 26-nation alliance will shoulder the bulk of the training costs.

"This assistance should be oriented to help Iraq build the capability of its government to address the security needs of the Iraqi people," Nato spokesman James Appathurai told reporters in Brussels.

The regular Nato ambassadors' meeting followed an appeal by US President George W Bush for other countries to unite "to win the battle of bringing democracy to Iraq".

Earlier France's President Jacques Chirac had said the US-led invasion of Iraq, which toppled Saddam Hussein last year, had opened up a Pandora's box of new problems in the Middle East.

The French leader again cast doubt on the strategy of the multinational force for bringing stability to Iraq.

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